By Lynda Bourne
Any output from a planning process is an embodiment of the planners’ fundamental principles and philosophies. They apply these principles, or approaches, to develop their plans. And different people will develop different plans to achieve the same objectives.
As early as the 1950s, James Kelley, one of the developers of the critical path method (CPM), reflected on this theme. He noted that in a class of 20-plus people learning the new CPM approach to scheduling, developing a 16-activity schedule from a set class exercise would result in nine to 10 different schedules. Clearly, different people use different approaches and assumptions.
What Shapes Approaches
The planner’s approaches may be explicitly stated, or they may be implicit and affected by:
The conundrum facing organizations is deciding the best approach to develop a plan—one that’s accomplished in the most efficient way within a given set of circumstances, in a given cultural environment, that results in the best outcomes. There is no one right answer to this question, or one way of knowing if the chosen options have delivered the desired result. Each project is unique, making tests and comparisons impossible.
Some of the approaches that can be used in combination, or isolation, include:
This diagram pairs opposite approaches; it’s up to you to determine where on the continuum is best for you in the current situation.
Applying the Approaches
The challenge is understanding the choices open to you and then making informed decisions about where on each of the dimensions is best for you in the current circumstances. Making overt choices rather than just doing the normal thing will generally lead to better planning outcomes.
For example, an agile project will require a planning approach that leans toward using non-rationality, incrementalism, contingent, emergence, improvisation, utopian, pluralistic, democratic and continuous approaches to the planning activity. A traditional “hard dollar” engineering contract, on the other hand, tends to require the opposite.
My recommendation is you think through these options. This offers you an opportunity to improve your planning practice, as one approach will not suit every project and simply doing the same as last time will inevitably lead to a suboptimal outcome.
How do you think about your approach to planning?
By Conrado Morlan
Did you know PMI is supported by volunteers from around the world? I had no idea when I first joined PMI in 2005.
That changed in October 2007 when I joined the ranks of PMI volunteers, a community of practitioners who give their time to work on activities that make a difference around the world. I learned about the many services undertaken by volunteers, including writing PMI standards, preparing questions for certification exams, organizing global conferences and presenting at PMI events. And the list goes on and on.
My first opportunity as a PMI volunteer came three or four months after I registered as a volunteer: participating in an item-writing session for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. At first, I had too many questions and felt daunted. Would I be able to deliver? Am I experienced enough? Would I be called again after this session?
When I arrived in Philadelphia, I put that feeling away and got ready to spend three days with a selected group of experienced project management practitioners from the United States and Canada. The session was quite productive; we shared our personal experiences and produced great material for the next version of the PMI certification exam. The experience was one of a kind; I could not believe everything I learned in three days, and for free.
I went on to participate in sessions in São Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; Washington, D.C., USA; Macao, China; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and more. I had the fortune to write items for the PMP, Program Management Professional (PgMP)® and Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® certification exams.
But that was just the beginning. I kept looking for volunteering opportunities and, on several occasions, submitted papers for PMI congresses in North America and Latin America. Many of my papers were accepted and well received by audiences across the globe.
Through the years, I also have supported local chapters as a keynote speaker or guest speaker in Dallas, Texas, USA; Mexico City, Mexico; Costa Rica; and Nuevo León, Mexico. This has enabled me to share my experiences working with multicultural project teams and meet practitioners from different latitudes.
In 2009, at the congress in Orlando, Florida, USA, I tried something new: writing columns for a special edition of PMI Today. I then co-authored articles for PMI Community Post, have been quoted in several PM Network articles and, as you know, am a frequent contributor to Voices on Project Management.
My proudest moments as a volunteer were when I was selected as a core team member to develop the Implementing Organizational Project Management: A Practice Guide and The Standard for Organizational Project Management in 2013 and 2016, respectively. The opportunity to interact with other project leaders from around the world and contribute to the profession was extraordinary.
If you’re still wondering why I am grateful to be a PMI volunteer, try it for yourself. Take the opportunity to live your profession with passion. See what you can gain by sharing experiences with other colleagues while developing and mastering your skills in a friendly environment.
What are you waiting for? Make your mark and join the local or global volunteer team to grow and advance the project management profession.
By Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP, MBA
As we close out 2019 at work, wrap up projects, and plan to spend time with our families for the holidays, sometimes we forget this is the best time to prepare for the year to come. Here are my five tips to get you in the mindset:
1. 2020 starts now.
The traditional thinking is that nothing happens from Thanksgiving to New Year’s since hiring managers and companies are preparing for the holidays.
The real situation is that everything happens at the end of the year. Companies are busy preparing for next year, and, from personal experience, November/December has been the busiest time for recruiting senior-level portfolio/program executives. Hitting the ground running starting Jan. 1 means that 2020 starts now.
Key questions for you to start your 2020 planning:
2. Ladder up your experiences and skills.
The traditional thinking is that a career ladder is about getting a new title at the next level with a higher salary.
The real situation is that building your career is about learning agility and building a repertoire of experiences and micro roles. If you’ve been in program or portfolio management for seven years or more, it may start to feel that you’ve “been there, done that.” To get to the next level of experiences, ask yourself: In 2020, how will you learn a new skill, gain a new experience or learn from someone?
3. Transformation must be visible.
The traditional thinking is that transformation is about organizational change management, which is mainly instituted through a variety of communication methods and channels (memos, town halls, workshops, staff meetings, etc.). In a recent viral stationary bike ad, the woman depicted before and after the transformation looked the same—many people had issues with the cognitive dissonance where she said that her life changed so much, but the change was not visible.
The real situation is that transformation is more than just communication. Instead of telling people what the change is, the approach should be to actively demonstrate the change so people can experience it. Transformation at the organizational level is about behavior change.
When I implement a large-scale organizational change, I personally lead up interactive training sessions to teach people about the change, as well as follow-up sessions where I’m hands-on in mentoring and coaching people on the new skills. It’s a great way to get real-time feedback about the change, and most importantly, to be seen as the expert coach within the organization enabling the change. This has been very effective in building trust and credibility in the organization.
4. Create space.
The traditional thinking is that when you see a good idea for a program, go implement it—quickly—to take advantage of speed to market.
The real situation is, just like a cluttered drawer that you keep adding to, a portfolio can be cluttered if not systematically managed. From a personal standpoint, I had to move recently, and I was surprised at how many things I found in the back of the drawer that I forgot existed. When I emptied it out and scrutinized every item, I discovered that 30-40 percent of the items were not needed or were no longer useful since they were damaged, broken or just plain outdated. By getting rid of items, I created space for new items and technology, just like in an organization.
The steps to portfolio management in an organization are:
5. Volunteer for your next role.
The traditional thinking is that your manager assigns you the next program or role.
The real situation is you are responsible for actively managing your next role. You should tell the right managers and other leaders what you would like your next program or role to be.
Don’t wait: What is your plan for starting 2020 now?
By Dave Wakeman
I never like to miss a trend, so since 2020 is just around the corner, I thought I would put together a few of the ideas I’m going to be exploring in the coming year. My hope is that you all will reply in the comments section with some of your own ideas and areas of focus.
We can call it a prediction post, without predictions. Here are the three things that I’ll be focusing on in 2020:
As I’m writing this, the United Kingdom is holding an election to try to clarify what they will or won’t do about Brexit. And I likely don’t have to tell you there’s an election in the United States in 2020.
Alone, these two things mean little to most project managers, but underlying these elections is a sense of economic uncertainty due to some of the issues that are driving them.
This is a big idea to pay attention to because the U.S. and the U.K. are two of the largest economies in the world. All of us have to pay attention because potential ripple effects could sideline our projects, cut our budgets, or just cause a general sense of uncertainty to seep into our work.
I’ll be checking the economic pulse constantly in 2020 because uncertainty of any kind can have a big impact on business, the economy and our jobs.
I’m back from Australia, and while I was there New South Wales was dealing with severe brush fires. Some have attributed the fires to the impact of climate change.
Whether climate change is an attributed factor in these fires or not, the trend of weather patterns being more severe is impacting population centers around the world.
I’ll keep an eye on this because where there are challenges, there are opportunities. As project managers, the opportunity to mitigate the impact of severe weather is a huge chance to hone our skills, develop new solutions and work on things that really do have a significant, real-world impact.
For me, I’m going to look at every major weather event and ask what were the lessons learned, what could we do to handle it better, and what is the trend line for this kind of event so that I can better understand where my skills and mindset can add the most value.
Changes in Technology
We take it for granted that technology is moving fast and changing the way we approach our lives and careers. I’ve been running out the flag that technology is a tool we should be using to improve our ability to do the things that only we, as humans, can accomplish.
Maybe it will be a theme of the new year—I don’t know.
But what I will say is that technology has been a crutch for a lot of us over the last few years, and as much as it improves our ability to do things, it also jams us up or sends us down a rabbit hole of needless activity.
In 2020, I’m going to keep an eye on how we are using technology. Can we find ways to take mundane, repetitive tasks off our plates and give us the freedom to do the things that really add value?
Or, are we continuing to allow technology to drive us and make us a tool of technology’s use?
From my point of view, keeping an eye on technology likely means spending more time focusing on the outcomes I need to achieve and thinking through how technology supports them, instead of getting lost in all the cool features that a solution has to offer.
But enough about me. Where are you going to focus your attention in 2020?
By Ramiro Rodrigues
A good definition of the word “maturity” is the state of people or things that have reached full development.
For entities such as business organizations, maturity needs to be associated with a specific expertise. This can apply to operational, technical and also project management maturity.
Project management maturity means that an organization is conditioned to evolve qualitatively in order to increase the chances for project success.
To this end, there are both paid and free maturity evaluation models on the market. The application of one of these models allows you to achieve the first important objective: identifying what stage your organization is at.
This step is difficult, given the complexity in trying to compare whether an organization is doing its projects well in relation to others, without being contaminated by individual and subjective perceptions. Often, most models will question various aspects of how projects are executed and produce a score for ranking. With this result, the models will classify the organization's current maturity level.
Once this level has been identified, the next step is to try to plot an action plan to move to the next level. Here is another benefit of a good maturity model: Many offer references to the most common characteristics expected in each level. With this, it is easier to draw up a plan of action focused on the characteristics expected at the next level. This progress should be incremental—one level at a time.
The action plan should be thought of and executed as if it were a project, following the good practices and methodology of the organization itself. It should be scaled to be completed in time to allow its gains to be observable and perceived by the organization. This will then cause the expected positive impacts in the next cycle of a new maturity survey.
In summary, the steps to be followed are:
1. Apply a maturity search.
2. Evaluate and disseminate the results of the first survey.
3. Develop an action plan.
4. Rotate the project to the evolution of the level.
5. Go back to step one and continuously improve.
By following this sequence, you can foster a constructive cycle in your organization as you continue to evolve your ability to execute projects.
I’d love to hear from you: Have you used maturity models in your organization?